When members of the Southington Board of Education voted for a budget plan that limited increases in spending through the elimination of 22 staffing positions, 15 of which were teachers, there were concerns over class sizes and how the district would be able to adjust.
Members are now keeping a close eye on the number of kindergarten students at the but aside from the one area of concern, School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr.’s plan appears to be working just fine.
“If you look at the numbers, these class sizes are about as good as we could have expected. The administration has done a wonderful job of adjusting,” Board of Education Chairman Brian Goralski said.
Across each of the town’s eight elementary schools, a report release by the Southington Board of Education at the end of the week last week showed class sizes range from 15 students per class at the kindergarten level, seen in one class at and in two classes at , to the 19 students in each of Strong’s classes.
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Linda Lackner, principal at Strong Elementary School, told members of the Board of Education late last week that the sizes are “of concern” and although the school can accommodate those sizes now without any issue, if there was an additional student in either classroom, it could compromise the quality of education.
It was a concern shared by board members Terry Lombardi and Jill Notar-Francesco, who presented a plan to add a part-time position through reallocation of funds in an effort to help reduce the burden on teachers at Strong.
Both Lombardi and Notar-Francesco said although there doesn’t appear to be “anyone in line to register” for kindergarten at Strong, the number of students already exceeds the 18-student goal set. Furthermore, they said that with the district preparing to explore all-day kindergarten for every student – the program currently only supports “at risk” learners – it would benefit the district to consider an added position.
“The challenge for us is to say ‘what are we doing today for these 38 children?’ I think that if money is an issue here, to have half a teaching position there would benefit the classrooms in a manageable way.”
Other board members expressed similar concerns over the class sizes, but were also cautious about making any decisions before getting a better picture of where the class sizes will be once school starts. The district is currently sorting through late registration, Assistant Superintendent Karen Smith said.
Goralski said Thursday that “one or two of these Strong students” could become eligible for all-day kindergarten and the latest discussions are a perfect example of why Erardi made the implementation of a district-wide all-day program a priority on his annual goals.
“I maintain my position that we should not spend money we don’t have allocated until we know we need to,” Goralski said. “With 19 students per class, I trust Mrs. Lackner and her staff, and I believe they will maintain the quality of education for these children.
“It’s uncomfortable to say we will have classes of 13 when there is no parody in the district to have classes of 12 or 13 students,” he said.
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